The cheapest of the bunch will cost you less per day than you may spend at Starbucks.
The vast majority of electric vehicles are being leased these days, and it’s a good way to minimize both the amount of money you’ll have to put down up front and lower your monthly payments. Sure, you’ll be trading in the car three years down the road for another one, but at least you won’t get stuck with what could be a seriously out-of-date ride.
Another benefit to leasing an EV is that the one-time federal tax credit granted to new-EV buyers is wrapped into the lease’s transaction price (the leasing entity technically being the owner of record) to lower the monthly payment and/or amount due at signing. If you buy an EV outright you’ll have to wait until the following year to deduct the amount from your income taxes.
We’re featuring the best EV lease deals of the month, good through the end of May, in the above slideshow. Of note, the Kia Niro EV just missed our under-$300 mark, being offered for $319 a month for 36 months with $3,999 due at signing. The cheapest-to-lease Tesla, by the way, is the base version of the Model 3. It’s going for $399 a month for 36 months, but with a steep $5,594 due at signing. The P100D version of the Tesla Model S (with the optional Ludicrous mode) is the priciest EV to lease at $1,805 a month for 36 months with a full $10,000 due at signing.
The terms cited among our cheapest-to-lease list include a limit of 10,000 miles per year, but you can obtain additional miles at a higher cost. For example, if you instead want a 15,000-mile annual quota on the aforementioned Tesla Model 3, the payment increases by $41 a month. It pays to err on the side of caution when it comes to a car lease’s mileage limit, as the per-mile overage penalties can be stiff. For example, if you lease a Leaf, Nissan charges 25 cents per mile if you exceed the mileage threshold. That means if you drive an extra 10,000 miles over the three-year term it will cost you $2,500.
Be aware that new-vehicle incentive programs often vary from one part of the country to another based on local supply and demand issues Make sure to check an automaker’s website under a “local offers” or “special deals” tab with your Zip Code entered to see what’s being offered where you live. Also realize that advertised cut-rate lease deals are only available to “well qualified” lessees with top-notch credit scores. If you have a dicey credit history you’ll likely be asked to pay more.
Finally, as with any new-vehicle transaction, keep in mind that virtually every aspect of a lease is open to negotiation, and that starts with a vehicle’s transaction price. Also, if you have extra cash on hand, you can usually obtain a lower monthly payment by putting a higher amount down. (The cash due at signing usually includes the first month’s lease payment.) Concurrently, if you’re cash strapped, you can typically lease a car with a lower down payment if you can afford a higher monthly rate.
6. Chevrolet Bolt EV
Lease for $299 a month for 36 months with $3,879 due at signing. We’ve seen lease deals on the Chevrolet Bolt EV deal vary by region, so be sure to check the automaker’s website with your Zip Code entered to see what’s being offered locally. The Bolt is rated to run for 238 miles on a charge, which makes it the longest-range EV among our best lease deals with payments under $300.
5. Nissan Leaf
Lease for $249 a month for 36 months with $3,979 due at signing. Available in all 50 states, the compact Nissan Leaf comes wrapped in distinctive styling and can run for an average of 150 miles with a fully charged battery. A longer-range version is coming later in the year that promises 226 miles per charge, but will certainly cost more.
4. Volkswagen e-Golf
Lease for $249 a month for 36 months with $2,999 due at signing. The Volkswagen e-Golf is quick and nimble, with a spacious interior. It’s hatchback design provides a large and easy to load cargo hold. The e-Golf affords a sufficient 125-mile range on a charge.
3. Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Lease for $239 a month for 36 months with $2,500 due at signing. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is a stylish small hatchback EV that comes well equipped for the money. It’s good for an operating range of 124 miles on a charge, which should be more than enough for most daily commutes. It’s currently available in California and 13 other states (also the District of Columbia) that have adopted its strict emissions standards.
2. Fiat 500e
Lease for $229 a month for 36 months with $2,349 due at signing. With an 84-mile range on a charge, the subcompact Fiat 500e is a bit cramped inside and only musters 58 miles on a charge, but it’s fun to drive and is inexpensive to lease. Unfortunately, it’s only available in California and Oregon.
1. Smart EQ ForTwo
Coupe: Lease for $139 a month for 36 months with $1,433 due at signing; Cabrio: Lease for $199 a month for 36 months with $1,693 due at signing. Sure, the Smart EQ ForTwo seats only two and runs for a paltry 58 miles on a charge, but it’s dirt cheap to lease, and is the ideal urban EV that can be parked in the tightest of spaces. The Cabrio remains the only open-air electric car. Unfortunately, 2019 is the final model year for the Smart line in the U.S.